TORONTO -- While the spread of COVID-19 has brought most things to a screeching halt, new data suggests that cybercriminals have been hard at works trying to scam Canadians.

According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, fake cottage rentals, puppy sales, online loan fraud and a host of other scams have cost residents $37,447,790 in 2020 alone, and the year isn’t even over yet.

Jeff Thomson is a Senior RCMP Intelligence Analyst with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and says with so many working from home and increased activity online, “It's just a ripened time for fraud right now."

The Centre also says that criminals are getting more aggressive in their tactics and phishing continues to be part of the majority of cases. Also, emails or texts appear to be legitimate but are actually linked to criminals. 

To protect yourself, don’t click on emails you don’t recognize and use anti-virus software.

You should always make sure your browser is up-to-date and be sure not to overshare personal information and use strong passwords with letters and symbols. 

Thomson says another type of fraud that is growing online is the extortion scam where criminals may tell people they have incriminating video or photos of them that could be embarrassing if released. 

People may get an email or text that states: “We have caught you on camera performing an illicit act and if you don't pay, the video is going to be released to your family and friends," said Thomson.

Another scam is telling people they've tested positive for COVID-19 and that they must follow instructions that direct them to phony websites and products. 

Even though Canadians have lost more then $37 million to scams online this year, Thomson said less then five per cent of scams are reported, meaning Canadians could actually be losing hundreds of millions of dollars to cyber criminals.